A dark forest stretches out before them; storm clouds bubbled above it. Julius watches the outskirts of the clearing, checking behind them for their pursuers. Alice and Jacob are right behind him. He wonders what Alice sees. He knew that magic is used to keep the wall up between the mortal realm and the supernatural realm. The forest is still, besides the storm raging above it. He couldn’t see where the guards were station, and if that’s because they weren’t on the side of the supernatural. Finally, a soft pulse of light enters the field, making Julius wince. Jacob gave a soft curse.
“Did that come from the forest or the storm?” Alice asks, her voice thick with sleep. Julius resisted the urge to look at her, to see her. The last day was hell, ignoring her and keeping his distance. He still heard Jacob making small talk, asking about her life. Julius felt like snapping the last twenty-four hours.
“It came from the portal to the Black Ley Forest,” Jacob replies, answering her question. Julius felt his jaw jump in irritation. The fact that she will not be alive in three days makes him distance himself. He doesn’t want to get to know her, to connect with her. Julius knew the words he said about her parents threw her, posed himself as the enemy. It is the only chance for himself to not break.
“We are going in the end portal, hopefully to avoid the guards on the other side. I have business to attend in Silver City,” Julius explains, glancing over his shoulder to obtain the looks on their faces. Alice was breathtaking. Her humanness radiates out of her like a light bulb. Her silver-blue eyes were full of emotion, the one that truly struck him, is the one that fills her eyes. The loneliness and haunted. He knew what that felt like, the moment you are on your own. Jacob’s green eyes held surprise.
“Silver City?” Jacob asks, his eyebrow raising in question. “Serious business?”
Julius shakes his head, turning back to looking at the Black Ley Forest. He saw the pulse of light, and knew that general area was where the portal is. He cocks his head, silently counting the moments between each pulse; knowing in between those moments are important. He turns toward the two behind him, already considering a plan. It is odd that Alice could see what they could, knowing the magic kept out humans. “We’ll have to keep you under wraps. Humans are in dangerous territory once they cross. The portal usually helps keep humans out, but the last century more humans have crossed and ends up dead. I need you to be careful. I’m going to have you sit with me, to keep the scent of the human under ours. They won’t detect it.”
Alice looks wide-eyed as the words start to process. “So, I’m in danger, no matter what I do?”
Jacob nods and looks back at the portal. “Isn’t there guards on the other side?” Julius nods. “Then why don’t we just tell them we are for the King?”
Julius stares down Jacob until he looks back. “Yes, there are guards, but as I have said, I have business in Silver City. I need to go there without any distractions,” he explains. Jacob looks at him steady and then nods.
“Alright, then let’s get Alice on your horse,” he mutters. Alice looks concerned, her heart racing a mile a minute. Julius felt his skin tighten and crawl as Jacob escorts Alice over. He keeps his eyes on the forest, where the portal is. His second in command helps Alice up on the horse, slinging her leg around to straddle the saddle. She leans back against him, her arm brushing his. His fingers tighten on the reign as he thinks about the last time, she was this close. Her hands are fisted together in her lap, are her legs tightens around the body of the saddle, to keep her steady. Alice is leaning against him, her heart beat pounding through her. He feels it vibrating through her, as his fingers turn white. Jacob settles beside them, his hands holding the reigns to his horse and Alice’s. The pulse lit again, and Julius dug his heels into his horse. They went forward, the forest seems to part for them. Julius knew it was the portal, allowing them through, accepting the lives that was passing.
Jacob whistles, as the portal closes behind them, lighting the sudden darkness with a pulse of bright purple. Julius feels Alice flinch in surprise at the light, the difference from the human world. Everything in the supernatural world is brighter and exotic. The colors were a lighter green, the dark webbing prominent against the light color. His lips twitches, threatening a smile. But then by the silver oak trees that frames the portal, stood black metal guards. Their dark armor glinted under the sun, that was rising higher by the hour. Jacob’s breath hitches as the guards swing in unison, facing them with blank metal faces. Beneath the masks, held a horrifying face of wrinkled grey skin. Alice leans further into Julies, her terror and surprise filling his senses.
“Marth and Kenneth, we have arrived for a business meeting at Silver City with Leilani Cooper,” Julius says, his eyes watching their movements. They started to circle the group, the mouth slit opens and moans a quick order to his comrade. Julius scrunches his nose in disgust at the disrespect they show him, but he needs to be kept under wraps, and keep Alice with him until they went to his king.
“Mm mm,” one moans beside Jacob, whose body is utterly still. The thing, the guards, drags his finger down his arm, “you smell like live flesh.”
Julius bares his fangs in answer, his anger pushing his boundaries. “We were ambushed by the Rogues,” he growls.
The guards back away, their metal masks tightening. “We will let the King know you’ve been back,” the one closer to them states, earning a glare from Jacob.
His second in command looks at the creatures evenly, as he spoke, “There is no need to inform him. We have no business with the king.”
The creatures look at him, their faces making a sneer. “The King’s ambassador comes through the portal, and don’t want us to alert the king?”
Julius cringes slightly, his plan starting to shamble. “We will have to leave again after the meeting, our subject is still unfounded,” he explains, his voice terse as Alice leans against him harder.
Both creatures surge around them, their skeleton hands trying to touch Alice. Her back tenses, and her heart is racing frantically with terror. “Who is this girl then, Julius?” His name rolls of its tongue and he wants nothing but to run them over, to get this distraction over.
“She is food,” he snaps, his arms going around Alice’s stomach to press her against him, not space between, not that there was much left. Her breathing hitches, but her hands clench his arms, keeping her steady. Julius is consciously aware of when her body pressed against his. He brushes his nose against the side of her neck, tightening his arms around her as she shivers. The creature smiles in grotesques, the skin wrinkling.
“Then you may leave. We will not tell the King you’ve passed through,” the other creature says, “on one condition; at the Silver City, tell Manny Harker that he is past due on his debt. We need to collect.”
Julius raises an eyebrow, surprise flickering within him. What crazed person would be caught up with these creatures? “That doesn’t seem like a bad condition,” Julius accepts. Jacob clears his throat, titling his head to go forward. Julius digs in his heels, and the horse takes off. They trot by the creatures, and they send disturbing grins at Alice, like they know her secrets. Julius reigns his horse to go faster.
Alice leans forward as they leave, the creatures an outline in the distance. Julius felt the discomfort of her being near, but not close enough as she was. He clears his throat as the forest finally closes around them. Jacob stops and looks back at them, the second horse throwing its head at the reigns binding him.
“You can get back on the other horse,” Julius says, his grey eyes on his best friend, a warning to not say anything.
Jacob helps Alice up on the other horse, tightening the bounds to his horse so she can’t run away again. There is an odd look on his face, that made Julius worried about what he has to say. They get on the road again, with Julius in the front. Alice and Jacob start conversing.
“What were those creatures?” she asks, the tremor of the fear shaking her voice.
“Gwortons, creatures of the portals. They are leashed to the portal, since it was called upon and to die when it disappears,” Julius interrupts whatever Jacob is going to reply with. He glances over his shoulder at them.
“They are horrible creatures that wouldn’t exist if the King had just used his own guards.”
Jacob purses his lips and looks away, but his green eyes shows agreement. “The King’s Ambassador?”
He shook his head. “I do not know why they call me that. I have nothing to do with the king, other than this assignment to bring in the Outlaws to be part of the kingdom,” Julius says, looking back at the hard-traveled path in front of him, “It may be his idea of mocking me, or theirs,” he suggests.
He hears Jacob snorts. “He tends to make promises he has no intention of keeping,” he swears.
“I know, but I can keep trying,” was all he responds with. They keep silent as they go, the trees alive with supernatural.
Over the course of three hours, in a small gap of trees, Julius caught the glare of a silver. Squinting, he saw the spiked tower, and the small blue-green flag, with a silver moon stamped across it. The building is a giant pin point, alerting friends or foe who they are nearing. Nodding to himself, he knew they are about an hour away from the headquarters. He gestures at Jacob and Alice to keep following him, his horse breathing hard. The forest starts to fill with more animals; silver deer, rabbits. Julius hears the barking of dogs and laughter of children as they reach the outer village of the city. Children of all ages running around, dirt smeared across their faces. Houses line the rough path, leading to the city. Stalls around the grass, where a pond ripple. Julius feels his mood start to brighten at the familiar place. He sees the house by the edge of the pond. He leads them over there, sliding off his horse. He helps Alice down, and leaves them to go inside.
The tavern was two stories, dark brown wood covers every inch. He opens the light-colored door. The dark brown wood helps keep the inside cooler. He steps inside, seeing the face of Jamie Kelp, a Fae. Her pointed ears poke out a long blonde hair, and she looks up as the door closes behind him. Her eyes are a light orange color, like a light amber color. They brighten as she took him in, not seeing him for over a year. But her lips twitch in a frown, as if she came to a realization.
“Julius, do you know what has happened since you left?” she asks quietly.
Julius stiffens, but his expression stays neutral. “I told her, Jamie, it was a fling,” he replies, walking towards her, leaning against the counter top.
Jamie’s eyes flare with fury. “No. Not that,” she says hotly, “The King is taking over another city of the Fae, one of Silver City’s attributes. He knows.” Jamie moves away from him, towards a small table, will plastic cups.
“How long ago?” he asks, his personal affair aside, his grey eyes watching her.
She shakes her head, her eyes focused on pouring a glass of water. “Three months after you left, never talking to any of us. Do you have idea how worried we all were, when he declares the challenge?” Jamie stares him down, handing him the up. “Leilani isn’t the same girl, Julius. She is the Chief now.”
“Chief? What about Gabriel?” he asks, his face flinching, taking the cup out of her hands. He took a sip, his body flinching at the substance.
“He was at the raid on Granite City, when he declared it,” Jamie responds, “Leilani is the appointed heir,” she sighs. “Just go see her; see what I’m talking about.”
“That’s not all I need,” he pauses, hesitant to ask more of her. “I need two rooms, one with two beds.”
Jamie looks surprise, her amber eyes wide. “You came with company?” she asks.
“Yes, Jacob and an unexpected guest,” he states. Jamie sends him a knowing look, before filing the notes in a small book. After getting the rooms settled, Julius waves and returns outside to see Jacob introducing Alice to a girl handing out florals. The little girl is familiar, deep purple eyes. Julius clenches his jaw and marches to them, his eyes meeting the little girl’s. She smiles, not a bit afraid, before giggling and running away. Jacob and Alice turn around to see him making his way there.
“How did it go?” Jacob asks.
“I got you two rooms. But I have to go or I’ll be late,” he explains. Jacob nods and gestures Alice to follow him to the house. Julius gets back on his horse, his hands on the reigns. He thinks of something from a while ago, five years ago. A girl who loved giving away flowers to strangers who pass through. He sighs, his mind catching a moment on the past.
An hour later, he is finally entering the Silver City. It has changed in the past five years ago. The tallest building is rusted and falling apart. The building is over eighty feet tall. It is circular, twining with stairs all the way to the top. It is the most important part of the city, and it wasn’t being taken care of. A brick building stood to its left, the main headquarters. Battle and war a big priority to this city then. Julius could make out war camps, near the shops. He settles his horse at a stable, making his way to the entrance. Two guards stood there, caked in silver, nearly blinding him as the sun glints off of him. The helmet falls back and his meets the familiar faces of the original guards. The first one, tall and raggedy, with black hair and emerald eyes, nods his head at him. The other one is short and handsome, the years better on him with brown hair and hazel eyes.
He makes his way inside, the granite walls and paintings still taken care of. His footsteps echo the flooring as he nears the conference room, where he hears low murmurs of conversation. He leans against the doorway, his ears metaphorically against the wall. He hears her voice, a ghost of five years.
A child laughing and a muscular voice chiming in. It sends the girl in giggles. His eyes close, but he grips the courage to open them and knock on the door.
“Did you have a meeting we weren’t aware of?” The masculine voice asks, footsteps coming towards him.
“Not that I know of. War Conferences are postponed due to fatalities,” came Leilani’s voice. The door opens to a dark-haired male of Fae. His eyes were a dark blue, like sapphires. Those eyes roam over him, sensing the fact of his species. His eyes darken with uncontrollable rage as he steps to him. A woman is behind him, long curly brown hair with violet eyes, sparkling like a gemstone. The room behind him is a room filled with chairs around a rectangular table, the conference room.
“J-Julius?” Leilani asks, her voice hardening, her hands dropping to her side in shock.
“Hello,” he says, eyeing the male Fae.
“I saw you,” a little girl; the same one handing a flower to Alice. Her eyes are a dark purple, a mixture of her parents, with black curly hair. “You came in with that pretty girl.”
“Anneth,” her mother scolds, shoving her behind. She turns back to Julius. “You shouldn’t be here,” she says to him.
“Leilani,” he says, her name rolling off his tongue, earning a glare form the male Fae, “we have business to talk about.”
The male Fae grunts, his hands fisted at his side. “No,” he growls, “now leave.”
Julius opens his mouth to argue, to ask him who he was, when Leilani catches his face, her eyes pleading to understand. “Julius, meet my husband, Jamal,” she introduces.
A roar enters his ears, and his eyes itch to close. He remembers stunning silver-blue eyes that hold hostility. Shaking away his doubt, he looks back at Jamal, whose gaze is slowing hardening with suppressed rage. “I have a proposition, if you are willing to listen,” he says.
“What’s that?” Jamal questions, fury soaking his voice.
He smiles, feeling a little better. “I can add to your army.”